Cursed

“VROOOM….VROOOM…..VROOOOOOM…”

5 year old Piyali ran through the house, running her new truck over every wall, table, door and surface she could reach.

“Maaa…..when is bhaiyya coming home? Why isn’t he home yet?”

She ran after her mother, pestering her for answers as she continued playing.

“He will be home when he will be home. But he won’t love you if keep being so noisy and annoying.”

Piyali let out a peal of laughter. “Bhaiyya will never not love me. He loves it when I annoy you.”

She ran the truck over her mother’s behind and leaped out of reach before she could be caught. Laughing maniacally towards the door.

Deepali sighed in resignation. Her husband had been out of state for a fortnight on an official tour. One more day for him to come home. It was difficult for her to cope without him. But thankfully her elder son Deepak was a self sufficient and responsible man of the house. Except for the fact that he spoiled his sister too much.

“Maa…bhaiyya is home”

Deepali rushed with a glass of water to the door and froze. Something seemed off. Deepak stood there, silently, expressionless. He stepped inside, as if in a daze.

“Wha…” She took a gulp to wet her dry throat “what happened Deepak? Are you ill?”

“Uhh…I feel sick” he mumbled as he stumbled towards his room. Avoiding looking her in the eye.

“Bhaiyyaaa….you promised to play with me..” Piyali whined as she clung on to her brother.

He smiled weakly at her, patting her head. “We will…let me get some rest first. You can tell me all about what you did today.”

Her phone started ringing before Deepali could contemplate why her usually upbeat son was behaving so off and upset.

“Hello?”

Heavy, raspy breathing on the other end.

“Who’s this?”

“Maa….a…”

Her entire being went cold.

“Hee….lp…”

A number of things happened within moments…but that moment seemed to last forever.

The line went dead, and the phone dropped from her hand as the door to Deepak’s room slowly swung shut, even as she leaped to reach her daughter, whose smiling face looking adoringly at her brother as the door shut on her would remain etched in her memory forever.

When she reached the room, which took forever, it was empty, without a trace of her children. Before she could scream out in terror, the phone ran again.

Her nerves on her end, shaking and shivering she cautiously picked up her phone. It flashed her husband’s number. After a long pause she picked it up, not knowing what to expect or if it were really her husband what to tell him.

“H..ha..hello?”

“Ufff…..why do you take so much time picking up your phone Deepa? It could be urgent you know?”

She broke down crying hearing his familiar voice.

“What happened? Why are you crying?”

She couldn’t calm down enough to be able to utter any comprehensible word. Even if she did, she hadn’t any idea at all how to say it.

“Accha baba! Dont worry… I will be back home tomorrow. I might be a bit late though. Actually we had to start late from here. The company ran into some troubles with the locals here. These superstitious people wouldn’t allow us to start the construction because of their old temple being on that plot. It’s already ruined and nobody even worships. But they still won’t let go of it. We had to call the cops and I had to personally remove the idol because even the workers were bloody scared. Stupid superstitious lot. Anyways, stay safe and take care of those annoying brats till I am….OI…WATCH OUT!!…”

Deepalis eyes bulged in horror as she heard the crash, scream and grating sound of metal grinding over broken glass as the line went dead on her for the second time.

A letter to all ‘well meaning’ people who think we don’t need Pride Marches or to talk about homosexuality at all!

​”I am all for LGBT rights but why do you people have to be so loud and flamboyant?”

“I think 377 should be removed but Pride marches should be banned.”

“I understand it’s not a choice but really who cares what you do in bedrooms. Why shout about it on the streets?”

“377 is not even enforced. Just don’t talk about gay sex, no one is checking your bedrooms.”

“People like you are the reason why no one supports LGBT rights. You make everyone uncomfortable with your parades and vulgar talks about sex.”

You know what? Just fuck off. If you think by just saying ‘i don’t mind gay people’ you are being supportive, you are not. You are just saying you are indifferent and it doesn’t matter. Which is fine, which is great, which is quite preferable. But don’t pretend that you care.

Indifference is not the same as actually caring. And when the biggest issue about standing for our cause to you is the ‘inconvenience’ of having to hear us talk about sexuality,watch us openly asking for our rights, see us celebrating our existence and being counted as a part of the society, then fuck you and your ‘pity’.

You don’t get to demand and dictate how we ask for our rights, as if you would have cared or advocated for us if we chose to sit quietly. We are not fighting to convince you anything, we are not asking for your ‘pity’ or ‘sympathy’. We are fighting to be left alone, to have the shackles of regressive laws removed from the private parts of our lives, to reclaim our own space in our society and country.

You don’t have to look at us if you don’t want to, you don’t have to hear us if you don’t want to. You can go on pretending we don’t exist as you have for ages. But don’t dare to ask us to quiet down our voice or tone down our visibility because it makes you ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘inconvenient’.

You know what is uncomfortable and inconvenient? To have to explain and justify your personal lives, your intimate relationships, your sexual choices or lack thereof to each and everyone. To have to lie and hide integral parts of your identity, your personality from your closest friends and family because you could be humiliated, mocked, isolated, locked up, beaten up or even killed. To feel that you owe an explanation to everyone as to why you are the way you are

So if you think your discomfort and inconvenience you feel from us coming out and talking about ourselves and celebrating our existence is excuse enough for us to shut up.

Just fuck off.

Apathy

Again and again and again,

She kept drawing the cards.

But the lots drawn would not change.

She threw the cards in exasperation.

Frustratingly enough, even in accident the cards spread out with the same faces up.

Perhaps some things are just not meant to be?

She mused, defeated and upset.

After all, for her talent as a fortune teller to make sense

Fate would have to be absolute.

If fate could be changed,

her predictions would not matter at all.

Sure, she made bucks selling fake cures and charms,

But her predictions were always accurate and inevitable.

To her, it was neither a blessing or a curse,

For she genuinely did not care about her own fate.

And she never really bothered about the fates of others.

What’s the use? Everything’s decided. Why mourn? Why celebrate? 

Birth, death, relationships, affairs, breakups…

All were but events and occasions that were predestined.

Living was nothing more than an actor going through motions of a rehearsed play,

The story of which they had not control whatsoever.

So why was she feeling upset? Why be sad?

She had known all along, it was just a play,

She just had to act out her role.

She was done, it was time for the exit.

Why then was she wishing she could change the inevitable?

She could hear the door banging.

She heard the door break.

She heard the footsteps approach.

She saw the figure tower over her.

She heard the click of the revolver.

She looked up, and saw,

The ashen face of a grief stricken man.

Whose wife she had promised to save.

She didn’t feel any guilt.

She didn’t feel any fear.

All she felt was a longing,

If only……

She closed her eyes as she heard the clock tick out..

Tick..     tock..

Tick…     tock..

Tick…

Koel in the nest

Seema restlessly fidgeted in her chair. The wrinkles on her forehead made her seem a decade older than she was. She waited impatiently for the cause of her accelerated aging to come home so she could give him a piece of her mind for being a self absorbed asshole.

“Maa ji….chai.”

Her reverie was broken by the scent of her bahu’s special ‘adrak wali’ chai made specially for her. She looked adoringly at Simran, her lovely daughter-in-law. Fair skinned, rosy cheeks, and eyes that seemed drawn by Raja Ravi Verma, she looked like Maa Durga. She was not only skilled in cooking both traditional and fast food but also had a head for finances and budget. Without splurging on clothes and cosmetics she managed to exude radiance and gorgeousness. She herself however seemed completely unaware of her own beauty. Soft spoken and mild natured, she was always respectful of her elders and cared for every member of the family. Seema never had to tell her anything twice and they never had any argument. She felt more at peace and relaxed ever since she passed on the reins of the household to her daughter in law. She could not have been prouder of her choice. She loved her more than she would have loved her own daughter
Which is why she could not fathom why despite a year having passed since her arrival, Simran’s smile had gradually diminished to the point of non existence. She had prodded her a lot for answers but she always managed to evade the questions with a fake smile. But of late Simran could not hide her puffy and red eyes or the sunken cheeks.
Ever since the wedding her son had grown more and more distant. She initially ignored it, thinking it was the pressure of starting a new family. But he could now rarely be seen around in the house. He would leave early, come home late and go to sleep as soon as he had his dinner. Grunts and nods were his only means of communication. He would rarely look up at her when she tried to talk about anything.

She then realised even the new wife was subject to the same treatment. She finally decided enough was enough. It was time to knock some senses into her stupid son and remind him of his duties as a son and a husband. Today she was determined to corner him and force him to speak. Which is why she was awake way past her bedtime.

She heard footsteps, and a key turning in the lock. Deepak walked in, looked at her sitting up awake. He didn’t ask why or what and sat down on the sofa, taking off his shoes. Seema could no longer stand his indifferent attitude.

“At least you could care enough to ask why i am up so late?”

“Why are you up so late?” he asked mechanically, still focussed on his shoes. Her patience was now evaporating fast.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to pretend to care about me. I am old now, I am just a baggage waiting to be dispatched off. But can you at least pretend to care about your own wife? Have you asked her how she is?”

“Why? Did something happen to her? I don’t remember saying or doing anything to upset her. I stay out of her way, she can do anything she wants, she doesn’t need my permission. She even manages my salary. I never have asked her to justify any money that she spends.”

She looked aghast at her son. This was not the boy she brought up. When did that cute, naughty and sweet boy that played in her arms become this cold, unfeeling man.

“What are you saying Deepu? Is that all you care about? Is that all you think there is to life and relationships? Have you become so money minded that peoples feelings don’t matter to you anymore? How much time have you spent with her in the past one year? Have you even noticed how much weight she has lost and how little sleep she gets. I can forgive you for ignoring me. Even though I did everything I could to show my love for you -“

“THAT’S a lie.”

A deafening silence exploded in the room at his eruption. Seemas eyes widened in shock. Not just at the fact that her son raised his voice against her, but at the ferocity that glared in his eyes as for the first time in a year he looked up at her.

“It’s a lie that you love me, Ma.” Deepak now spoke gently, but firmly, still looking her in the eye but with a softened gaze, as if explaining to a child

“What you love is ‘a son’, but that son need not necessarily be me. In fact, had anybody other than me been your son, you would have been a lot happier. Whatever you decided for me, you did thinking of the son you wanted, not the one you had. I don’t blame you, you did not have a choice in that matter. Like children cannot choose their own parents, parents too cannot choose who they are giving birth too. But they can try to shape them up in the image they have pre-conceived. But try as much, there are some things that you cannot fundamentally change. Children will grow up to be who they are. I was never and I can never be the son you want, Ma. But I tried my best to pretend to be.    I will forever be grateful for the love and care you gave to me. But I feel like an impostor who cheated you by pretending to be your son, or rather, the son you wanted. I never wanted to marry Simran, or any other girl. I had told you why. But you refused to listen, refused to understand. You threw a tantrum and forced me into this marriage. You ignored my feelings. You pretended like everything was going to be fine. Because I was your son, and you thought you knew best. I realised, you were not thinking about me, because you didn’t even notice how heavy my heart was on the day of the wedding. You turned away when Sahil came at my wedding to say his goodbyes and I was left a staggering, teary mess of nothing. You dragged me into the altar even when all I wanted was to die. All the while smiling and pretending everything was fine. After Simran stepped into the house, you wore the proudest smile and flaunted her to all your friends and relatives. But you never paid attention to how crushed I was. But I bore it all, for your sake. I was not the son you wanted, but she was the daughter in law you always wanted. You could not choose your son, but at least you now had a daughter of your choice. You asked whether I think money is all that is there in life and relationships? A year ago I would have said no. But today, I have learnt to live for it. Because providing you two the comforts brought by money is the only happiness I can give you. It’s the only way I can right the wrongs I have done to both of you. By both marrying her, and being born to you, in deception. I have nothing else to give. If you want grandchildren, I can try, with Simran’s permission. I will provide for them, and their education. You and Simran can try finding your joy with them. I will learn to be content the way I am. I have gotten good in a year. Don’t you think so?

Deepak didn’t wait for an answer. He walked away into his bedroom, leaving the food waiting for him on the dining table untouched.

Seema sat motionless in the couch. Streams of tears flowing down her cheeks. Her chest hurting with the pricks of a thousand pieces of a shattered heart.

The HR’s cabin

“Hi!….Good morning.” Sahil greeted shyly as he took his seat.

“Good morning. And….how are you liking it here Mr. Ahmed?” Sunil asked the younger man.

“It’s great. The project is interesting, and the managers are great and very helpful.” Sahil replied, a bit apprehensive as to why he was asked to come to the HR’s office.

Sunil was the HR manager at the IT firm, and it fell on his shoulders to look after the new recruits. However, he did not make it a point to call each and every recruit into his office within a week of their hiring. It was only a select few that he would, few who met the profile he was looking for. And Sahil, a bright, smart 25 year old, good looking man with average qualifications and a less than decent financial background, met the profile to a T.

“Good, good! That’s excellent.” Sunil said unmindfully “I am glad you are comfortable here. We like to take care of our employees.”

“Thank you. I really love working here.” Sahil smiled politely, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the older mans piercing glare fixed on him.

“Can I see your hands?”

“Ah….excuse me?” Sahil asked confused.

“Ah! Dont worry, i just want to read your lines, i did a course in astrology and palm reading once.” he said as he took the reluctant mans hand in his hands and preened over his palm, studying it.

“Hmmm…..you have worked hard to get here.” he stated “…..and it says here that you will work harder to stay here.” giving him a pointed look.

“Uhh…..yes….i am ready to work harder, sir.” Sahil stammerred, trying unsuccessfully to slip of the mans grip.

“Good. Because you will have to work hard.” he said, holding the mans hand tightly and playing on the palm with his other hand.

“You know what with the recession and all, we had to make a lot of layoffs. So you have to be on your toes and work really, really hard to keep your job.”

Sahil stood up abruptly, jerking his hand off the mans grip.

“I need to leave, sir. I have work to do.” he said sternly.

“Fine.” Sunil leant back on his chair as he watched the young man storm off. It could have gone better. Maybe he came off too strong. Never mind, he would try again later, get him in a better mood or something, maybe offer him an on site position. That would be hard to resist. He chuckled.

“Hey, wasn’t that Sahil Ahmed? The new guy we recruited last week?” Revathy asked as she entered her colleagues cabin.

“Umm…yeah….he had some….things….to discuss…. ummm….about his….personal life.”

“Well….thats a bit rude.” Revathy sighed, disappointed “I already told him I would help with his personal problems, he didnt have to come to you.”

“Ummm….how exactly were you helping him?” Sunil asked, curious and trying not to appear ignorant.

“Well…I am not sure yet, I was looking into the Company’s policies. I did find some inclusive policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Also did you know that, our Company actually has an LGBT ALLIANCE group? It’s international and we dont have an Indian chapter yet, but maybe we could start one? Sahil was keen on it, i am sure more employees will show up. It will even help boost our image as an inclusive, modern enterprise that takes care of its employees. I think we should talk to Kevin and get him to….” she chattered on excitedly, heedless of the other man trying to ease his breathing and calm his violently palpitating heart.

Holy fucking shit! He almost got involved in an office scandal with a open and out faggot. If even a word had gotten out, his career, marriage and social life would have been ruined. Luckily he dodged a bullet, never again was he going to have anything to do with a open and out faggot that had no shame or decency themselves and would have brought him down in the muck too, at least HE had fucking sense enough to be discreet.

Unbeknownst to him, the bullet was just being loaded as Sahil finished drafting his mail to the Sexual Harassment Help forum. His finger hovered over the mouse button for a thoughtful second before he clicked ‘Send’.

Demon

Through the window shone the full moon bright,
The ash-tray glistened in the soft moonlight.
Rain pattered softly on the window-pane,
Drops trickling down, playing an innocent game.

He sipped the scotch and kissed the cigar,
Morbidly he stared, across the table, at the stranger.
Hidden in the shadows, its face was unseen,
It leaned forward, just enough to be seen.

Gaunt was its face and pale was its skin,
Eyes were sunken, and a scar from the right brow ran in.
It leered at him, lips curled into a sneer,
The very sight, enough to make one fear.

“Who are you?” he slurred in a voice hoarse,
“Do you not remember?” its words sounded like gravel coarse
“I am the best friend that you have ever had,
Perhaps the only one you truly trusted.

I was always by your side, wherever you were,
But only at the worst of the times did you ever remember.
I was under the bed when you slept as a kid,
Sometimes, in the closet, where you caught me peeking in.

I was in the dark alleys, which you rushed past at night,
Always in the shadows, I never came out in the light.
I was in your darkest thoughts and worst nightmares,
Frightened of me, yet fascinated you were.

From time to time, you sought me out,
In the last dregs of scotch, or the puff of smoke.
You came to me, when they laughed at you,
You looked for me when they betrayed you.

I have always been here waiting for you,
To seek me out and let me end your pain.
In the world of the light, you are not meant to be,
In the darkness here, you belong with me.”

He gulped down the scotch and reached for the Glock,
3 hours past midnight, struck the clock.
A shot rang out, shattering the still night,
He crumpled on the table illuminated by moonlight.

Rain pattered softly on the window-pane,
Red drops trickled down, playing an innocent game.
One more prey it had seduced tonight,
Beware of The Wily One, the Demon of the Night.